Bailey’s head high after low weekend

Michael Dougherty

Throughout the history of sports, heart-rending stories of inspirational athletes have been passed on, etching out numerous moments that have now become part of tradition.
Stories like Babe Ruth’s famous called home run for a sick boy in the hospital, or Knute Rockne’s legendary “Win one for the Gipper” speech, detail the type of inspiration athletes can provide.
After two missed extra points and two missed chip-shot field goals in Saturday’s 20-19 loss to Indiana, which knocked the Gophers out of bowl game contention, Minnesota kicker Adam Bailey looked like the least inspirational figure around.
But Bailey received a letter Tuesday from an Indiana University professor who attended the game with his 10-year-old son.
The professor wrote to Bailey to commend the senior on his poise during an extremely difficult situation.
Gophers coach Glen Mason read the letter during Tuesday’s media luncheon to point out learning can come from losing, as well as winning.
Mason called the letter a “classy thing,” and proceeded to read it word-for-word. In it the professor described how his son had become a sore loser in basketball and baseball games, but watched Bailey conduct a post-game interview with composure.
The professor, according to Mason, wrote that his son talked about Bailey on the ride home and hoped the kicker was okay. He went on to thank Bailey for being such a positive inspiration in teaching his son how to “lose like a gentleman” and be a “great sport.”
The normally reliable Bailey said he spent the weekend looking for answers and being consoled by those close to him. But the letter, he said, was really uplifting for him.
“It’s really nice to hear support like that from people other than your family and friends,” he said.
Bailey has had plenty of time over the last few days to think about how any one of those kicks could have been pivotal in helping Minnesota to its first bowl game since he was in sixth grade, 12 long years ago.
Heading into the Indiana game Bailey had 74 percent field goal success (38-of-51) and 94 percent rate on extra points (57-of-61) in his career. He said he hopes people remember the successful Adam Bailey and not the one who essentially shanked four consecutive shots at making a bowl bid a very real possibility.
“I did have one bad game, and it was a terrible game with some terrible timing,” Bailey said. “But I’ve done some other things in the past and I hope that is what people will remember me by.”
Bailey is fifth all-time on the team’s career field goal list, including the game winner with 13 seconds left against Michigan State last month.
Fellow senior, linebacker Parc Williams, said he knows Bailey will want to end his career on a good note with Saturday’s game against Iowa at the Metrodome.
Williams, like Mason, said the blame for the Indiana loss can’t fall on just one person. And when asked what his mood would be like if he would be playing for a bowl game this week, instead of for pride, Williams cautioned about the dangers of what-ifing.
“There are a bunch of what-ifs throughout a season,” he said. “There have been mistakes that everyone has made which could have turned around the outcome of a number of games. Yeah, I ponder things like that, but then you’ve got to move on.”
Mason said this situation is the epitome of what the word “team” means, adding a couple missed tackles on two third-and-five plays, both of which resulted in Indiana touchdowns, could have prevented Bailey from being the goat.
“Don’t let anybody take everybody else off the hook and pinpoint one man — this is a team game,” Mason said. “It’s real easy to point the finger and say, ‘That’s the reason. Adam, you lost the game.’ The flip side to that is a few weeks ago to say, ‘Adam, you won the game against Michigan State.’
“Neither one of those things is true.”